|The interesting aspect of design, as a disciple, is that proof of concept rests entirely on the outcome. The question is: can you take a set of ideas or desired characteristics and build them into a process and artifact of some kind that produces the desired result - and is that result useful? The answer is yes or no; either the goal is accomplished beyond some defined threshold or it is not. If the result it accomplished or not does not say anything definite about the veracity of the basic concepts that were used. It is true, however, that some concepts are better than others for getting results. Skill in the design process involves selecting the right ideas to try out. There is a tight relationship between the ideas, goals, materials and means in the cycle of Design/Build/Use. |
|Creative people, universally exhibit certain habits. Working long and intensively (and to the exclusion of nearly all else) during the incubation of an idea or work, is one example of a ubiquitous habit. These habits can be stated as rules. In this case the rule of: Focus intensively during the incubation period of an idea or design to the exclusion of all else. These rules can be considered to be “command language” in the mind of an individual or organization; they can be “embodied” in a system-environment by a series of means (protocols, work processes, technology tool-kits, models and language, physical architecture and symbolism, and so on). The sum of these as embedded rule-sets, make up what many call the “culture” of the organization; I prefer to think about this as the Operating System (OS) of the organization and the physical expression of its art. |
|It is possible to employ Rapid Prototyping, FasTracking and Design/Build/Use cycles to explore ideas and concepts, translate them into rules, embed them in working environments, operate these environments, and employ documentation and feedback (of a complex kind) to make this a self-correcting system. This meta-process is what we have been doing at MG Taylor for nearly a quarter of a century. The means of creating our System and Method is our System and Method. This is why I refer to it as an ENGINE of creation. At each step of creating a facet of it, the Zone of Emergence architecture is used. Complex systems are not predictable; they are emergent; minimal intervention into the specific arena in focus is necessary to minimize unintended consequences. Thus, the System and Method is a bootstrap operation using the best existing version of itself to create an improved version of itself - one discrete step at a time. |
|Use feedback with skepticism, craft and deliberation; Focus intensively during the incubation period of an idea or design to the exclusion of all else: Let passion drive you and express it appropriately; Execute with high |
levels of process control and precision; Employ eclectic learning methods (modes); periodically explore a broad content range; and bring this content to carefully selected subject areas related to your work; Sustain high physical energy levels; focus this energy during intense work periods; punctuate work periods with appropriate re-creation; Practice a technical discipline at state-of-the-art levels; Follow your Intuition; Document your progress; Practice work-living integration and 24/7/365 work-flow; Rule out failure as an option; know when to retire from the field; keep the long view; Develop and use your “reset” button; Employ a “hands on” approach to product creation; Challenge
Convention; Work in rapid iterations - ship a product - again and again; produce a rapid series of working prototypes; Create a language around your field of interest and creative work; Hold context and keep goals intact on a lifetime scale; employ ritual; maintain the “observer;” Invest everything; Message broadly; communicate intensely with peers; build functional networks; Serve a higher cause; Create a community; Organize your workplace so that it works for you.
|Taken together, these make up a strong and comprehensive instruction set. No matter how different, from another, one human “agent” may interpret these “commands,” there remains a clear direction that is stated and the things-to-do are unambiguously implied; in total, a mandate is established. Non-human agents, require a less ambiguous instruction set and language. How these commands get embedded in non-human agents varies from kind of agent to kind of agent, and, the agent’s circumstance and use. The interesting thing is, that as the environment of the human agent is increasingly made up of other agents thus “commanded,” any ambiguity in the human “command” language is consequently diminished. It takes this “embedding” of non-human agents to bring precision, without interference, to the human communicated instruction set. As humans practice these creative habits, in the space, there is a feedback loop to the inanimate environment that, through morphic resonance, brings the inanimate alive thus completing the loop and reinforcing the efficacy of the entire system. The total environment emerges, as a system, through a series of transformations. |
|How to build creative agency into the total environment (made up of agents of various kinds) of the human agent, to create a coherent embedded message of these creative rules, is the subject of the following comments. |
|There are a great number of agents, that make up the environment of a human agent, that can represent, in their actions and messaging an instruction set (and capacity) of immense power. Conversely, as is too common, the environment can be filled with opaque, contradictory, confusing and competing messages. Even though each human will respond differently to each of the agents (messages), individually, the SUM is almost certain to work given proper execution of the components - if produced by an effective process design, and an adequate understanding of symbolism. Each of these agents can be thought of as having a voice. One of our axioms for setting up a Taylor environment is “everything speaks.” These voices may be graphic, sound or written language; the modality may be denotative or connotative; the message may be conveyed through form, texture, rhythm, space; the content may be transferred intellectually or experientially; it may be in the form of a metaphor, a model, a proof, data, mathematical statement; the media may be electronic, paper or modeling materials; and, of course, all are intermingled with a high variety mix of other human agents engaging in the space, all other agents and each other. The environment is embodied dialog. |
|In the past, architecture, learning, information, experience, facilitation, work processes and media, were seen as different things and processes; in this approach they are ONE; all engaged in an entrained creative process/artifact that makes strong memory as a deliberate consequence of the experience of working within it. |
|How is it done? It is done by a thousand intentional design decisions that makes the desired condition become real; it is BUILT. This building is a conscious act of putting idea into process, structure and form. It is the act of creating real (i.e. in fact) architecture. In a practice, the results of these acts are experienced, evaluated and the work proceeds anew; iterative, recursive, feedback driven - a deliberate process of bringing THERE (the vision) to HERE (the existing condition), making something, and then recreating the vision. This is, essentially, the ACT of art brought to all aspects of work and life. |
“The Characteristic phenomenon of the contemporary epoch is this:
“Scientific-technical advancement is not longer anteceded, even less induced, by new spiritual-philosophic cognitions as in previous ages. Instead, science and technique advance autonomously, without the moral control and intellectual preparation that religion and philosophy provide. Each new phase in the rapid transformation of the contemporary physical environment meets man unprepared and hence remains outside his full control.
“As a result, new scientific-technical achievements no longer address human sentiment. Consequently, they not longer assume the role of art as in previous ages, when all creative manifestations of man were within popular conception. That is to say, science and technique - the two major forces that shape the contemporary environment - are without art and the humanizing force that art gives.
“This alienation is evident in man’s emotional indifference to the forms created by science and technique. It is apparent in his failure to grasp the new dimensions conquered in space and energy or to imagine their meaning for the human race on this planet. Indeed, science and technique - the two most efficient instruments of human progress - now virtually endanger the very existence of mankind.
“The challenge of the present, thus, is not discovery of the new but the total comprehension of the existing and its integration into contemporary ethics; hence, its human application and aesthetic appreciation. The tragedy of the present is that any such spiritual search or the meaning of man’s existence in the contemporary epoch is no longer a noble expression of Man’s inner desire for enlightenment, but a necessity forced upon him by technical-scientific progress.
“The challenge exists also for the architecture in the industrial society. for even through building technology lags far behind other industries, it has, nevertheless, progressed so far that its forms remain largely neutral to human emotions. Not being incorporated into the universal order of contemporary thought, architecture constitutes still another alien and inhuman element among man’s scientific and technical creations and, especially in residential architecture, revives an unrealistic escape to romanticism.
“Therefore, it is not the improvement of technical, economical, functional hygienic or visual factors of building, but the establishment of organic relationships between man, society, technique, and shelter within the total framework of contemporary ethics that is the task of contemporary architecture.
“For this universal theme the residential architecture of japan, more than any other, holds instructive comparisons and discloses basic problems. for in Japan the spiritual order of the epoch was successful in an unique way:
it brought man into intimate emotional relationship to most simple shelter and most humble living;
it gave aesthetic meaning to an architecture that was a pure expression of necessity;
it humanized an environment that was largely standardized and prefabricated;
it established an accord between feeling and thinking.”
The Japanese House
A Tradition for Contemporary Architecture
|Below are a few examples of embedding creative habits as rules in the workplace. The possibilities are endless. The 7 Domains Model can be useful as a frame of reference to facilitate the process that is implied by these examples. |
|There is no question that the following ideas and actions outlined are far easier to carry out in a NavCenter; after all, they are designed to do this. It is important to know that requirements of the creative life are such that all living and work environments (process, physical place and tool-kit) should embody these rules in an appropriate manner. Creativity does not take place exclusively in the work environment; it takes place in life. And, it becomes clear upon reflection, the work environment has to be made more like non-work environments if we are to advance toward the goal of enhancing creativity everywhere. The dichotomy between work, play and other aspects of human life - this creature of the industrial revolution - has to be closed. Indeed, how we partition our time, our attention and the values and basis buy which we consider things to be true and by which we govern our selves is the single greatest factor that determines the creative profile of our society. The focus here is the workplace and that means everywhere where productive thought and activity takes place. |
|Focus intensively during the incubation period... |
|Most people’s life experience is broken into arbitrary fragments that do not match the character of time required for true creative work and leisure. Each kind of work, by the nature of it, requires a different period of work-time as well as a distinct mental set. Each individual’s personal requirements will be somewhat different in response. There are, however, general patterns that are broadly shared. Among these, the intense period of work focus, essential for the incubation of an idea or major project phase, is the most critical. This is true not only for the formal work aspect but also in our practice of leisure which is a concept that has almost totally disappeared from our social reality. Today, families plan leisure time as if it were a military campaign. The activities that most support a creative life are equally missing from the home as from the workplace. Work-life style “balance” has become a competition between two pressure-driven, manic environments that seem designed to make sensing, thought, intimacy, learning and concentration impossible. Added to this is the constant stimulation of media which is remarkably devoid of real content but extraordinarily high in fear-driven meta-programming that presents a world in perpetual crisis. Too much drink, food, self-induced stress, drugs and environmental pollution have resulted in a variety of health problems: failing immune systems, declining physical energy, chronic diseases and abnormal mental behavior. It is interesting, in this the most affluent and technically advanced civilization in known history, to read the statistics related to over-the-counted and prescription drugs. The abuse of socially acceptable and not-acceptable drugs goes without comment. Conditions that once were associated with middle age now visit our children. Much of this is not new or excusive to our era. What is new is that the habits that promote these conditions are actively promoted with billions of dollars by both advertising and entertainment while, at the same time, innovation is now become a major goal of everyone in the workplace. This would be amusing if the financial consequences were not so serious and the human costs so tragic. |
|Document your progress... |
|In the typical workplace, “executives” rush from meeting to meeting without the aid of proper preparation and documentation. This contributes to meetings being used for information exchange rather than collaboration, co-design and formal decision making. knowledgeworkers often document in relationship to their specialty and specific work focus but rarely in regards the whole system of which their work is a part. “Hands on” workers virtually never document except to the extent that this activity is their task - and then rarely in a way that that connects and synthesizes. Even professionals, who may keep logs and every scrap of paper, religiously, too often fail to maintain the ability to easily retrieve, reuse, annotate and file, creating what can be characterized as an active archive. Files fill up as do hard disks until stored somewhere; electronic media becomes un-retrievable; many organizations, now, deliberately purging record to avoid liability; the mind of the organization suffers systematic memory loss. Almost never is there information about the information that somehow escapes oblivion; all is treated the same; a world awash in data overload with individuals mostly left to their own organizational resources and innate ability to remember. It is almost all there, of course, for the army of investigators, the occasional researcher and historian which means long after a crisis or a time of greatness we are provided a useful model of what happened. And, data mining systems now feed information into automated systems designed to track your activities, restrain your actions or sell you something. These do little, in real time, to support the creative processes of individuals, teams, organizations or our society at large. Those who do document well often fail to publish in a way that makes their hard won learning and work products, produced along their journey, available to themselves and others. Only a few of the famous get documented for broad discrimination. These conditions deprive individuals and society of the useful real-time feedback necessary to creative work. Magazines (unfortunately isolated by specialty) partially fill this gap. What is left over from this process of collective amnesia is often put through the “spin-game” until what is real is distorted to express someone’s agenda not truth in any way that the term can be understood. On the level of the individual to the entire society, the critical “dialog” between the incremental steps of an idea coming into practical form, and the many people, teams and organizations who can participate in this interaction, is lost. |
|Employ a “hands on” approach to product creation... |
|Work has become abstracted and removed from consequence and feedback. This results from the overspecialization of expertise and work, the structure of organizational hierarchy, and the way the “market” perceives and compensates for individual and corporate contribution. The cap between thinking and doing has become progressively greater in the last century. Few workers can say they make anything, they perform a step that has been rationalized, segmented and governed my criteria that only loosely relates to the end result. Few use what they make nor have any true control of what they do. |
|Serve a higher cause... |
|A system that does not reference another “larger” system has no framework. It functions without vision. We are not a society lacking in the ability to be creative on the incremental level - the sheer weight of talent and numbers insure this. We are a society that lacks creativity that is healthy and harmonious for the individual life and sums up to a sustainable social whole. Today, we seem to be making an economic steamroller whose sole purpose is to to feed and grow itself; we are creating an economic machine that has become, by default, the human context rather than a tool (among many) as a means to human happiness. We have not answered the Theory of the Leisure Class ( or society), we seem to have played much of it out by promoting an ever growing glut of induced consumption that we claim defines the basics of necessity and happiness. It is doubtful that those icons that stood in the past for various causes will serve our contemporary needs. We need to re-create (recreation?) our vision and we must do this on the individual level as well as the many dimensions (recursions) of our social networks. How an individual creates the purpose of his or her life is their greatest act of creation from which all other value follows. The same is true of a society. This “cause” is an invention; it is creating the problem at the scope of of a lifetime and, for some, on the scale of a society. Care must be taken here; on one end of the scale lies hedonism and boredom - a wasted lifetime; on the other, fanaticism - the greatest danger there is. Our time is notable for its lack of healthy, life promoting, vision. As a consequence we teeter between irrelevance and and globally destructive consequences. Our creative natures have become the slave of an unhealty materialism rather than the maker of a sustainable, ever delightful social and ecological landscape. |
|Create a community... |
|Specialization and the remains of social and racial discrimination causes the majority of us to live in functional ghettos. If the ghetto is rich in amenity, we do not recognize it as such but we remain impoverished by the experience nevertheless. Every field of work has its own built in (structural) epistemology. These are the embedded rules and assumptions that make up the art. These fields select members and ideas for certain traits and reinforce these traits though training and subsequent career choices of their members. In some cases this leads to extreme “adverse selection” - a risk that insurance companies fear and try to avoid for good reason. These intellectual ghettos stifle variety and stimulus; they become dull and stagnant; they even determine, in many instances, where people live and what social organizations they join - and, of course, visa versa. Communities are necessary to humans’ mental health and efficacy. Communities are formed - there is no escaping this fact. The question is: based on what criteria and rules-of-engagement? For all of our societies’ superficial individualism and celebration of the bazaar, we are by and large a docile and herd mentality. The is not the way (Dogu) of the creative society. Communities, today, largely happen; they are the default consequence of old social habits, a media induced consumer society, and to some extent, a political slight of hand - we are a society designed by distraction and social programming far more than by self-aware intent. |
|We all make the social world we live in. Until recently, with the exception of rare individuals, individuals tended to develop within the community they were born into. The industrial era’s military, college and large corporations progressively expanded this base of most. “Networking” became a topic by the late 70s and with it the notion that intentional virtual communities were both possible and essential. Communities of practice models emerged in the mid 90s; since then, the Internet has provided the tool and researchers like Albert-Laszlo Barabasi (LINKED - The New Science of Networks) the theory. Intentional communities and cooperatives have long been a fringe but important element of American society from the beginning. The notion of deliberately building a global network, as an individual strategy to enhance work capability, is still a radical one. We are still in the early stages. Even with the recent melt down of Internet stocks and business strategies, a revolution still lurks in the idea of the “network effect.” From the old “good-old-boy” networks to the technology augmented virtual, special interest networks of today, a new social organization strategy is emerging. We call these ValueWebs and believe they represent the next phase of social organization. |
|The issue then, in regards to creativity, is the deliberate act of designing networks to accomplish defined goals be they for learning, resource acquisition or implementing work. |
|Organize your workplace... |
|In the environment where most people work this seems to be an absurd statement. The same can be said for the schools they attended. Was creating an environment to promote creative work ever taught? How many have any effective control of any aspect of their work environment? Is there be any relationship between the sterile pigeon holes called workstations and the stagnant thinking that predominates in many organizations? No, we were not taught this and yes we do have control over our environment - we have chosen to delegate this control to others (who have turned it into a commodity) and we have to take this responsibility - and our environment - back. |
|Organizing one’s environment - nesting - is an essential ritual as well as a logistical necessity of an individual’s creative process. In the specific, everyone works differently; left hand, right hand; standing, sitting; pacing, not; work spread out, put away; open access (prospect), quite niche (refuge); sparse setup, abundant “mess;” and in addition, there are a wide variety of work modalities and processes that vary greatly from person to person. The workplace should adapt to people; people should not have to adapt to the workplace. The workplace should reflect human values and the character of each individual not the false standardization and misguided attempt to make the place of work into a simple machine. Each phase of the creative process requires a different framework; each individual response to each phase differently. When our work environments reflect this reality, we will know that we have begun to create creative places. |
|How is this rule EMBEDDED? First by making a place that is flexible and adaptable based on an understanding and practice of defined and tested protocols; put control of this environment in the hands of the those working within it. Create standards and examples of productive environments, as models, provide the tools so that users can build and truly use and continuously adapt their own workplace. Facilitate knowledge workers and client through work processes that produce value, educate and entrain new habits. Bring beauty, symbol and quality back into the workplace. Respect the fact that people spend half their life in their work environment. Populate the space with books, toys, models, graphics, plants and examples of the work being produced. Celebrate creativity in every THING that is present. Make variety; constantly change the arrangement and the things that are in the space; bring in living beings: plants, animals, children; pay attention to pattern language; infuse your soul and intent into the place as a work of art; don’t ever stop this process and let the place become static, common and dull; pay close intention to the feedback of what the environment is saying to you and telling you to do; engage the place in a dialog. |
|Things are made. As such they are the result of intent and a rule-based process. Nothing is philosophically or artistically neutral. Everything is the expression of idea. Every object denotes meaning and connotes meaning. Observe the world around you and reverse engineer what you see. Then, use what you learn as rules to guide actions that change your environment. Experience the result. Do the process again. And again. The environment you work in is you. The environment we all make together be it a community, city or our global “spaceship” is us. We are part of GAIA. There is no escaping this fact. What we do matters (becomes matter). |
|The modern workplace does not WORK very well. It is tolerated; I know few who actually say they like it. This presents a great opportunity to remake it into a far better expression of human values. Today, it is a somewhat more pleasant vestige of the medieval structure. It has to become far more participatory and democratic. It has to embrace moral (not moralistic) principals. It has to be made physically and emotionally healthy for today it is not. The cult of efficiency and utilitarianism has to give way to creativity and art; dogma has to give way to work processes based on real results not on old, left over, worn out deeply embedded practices that do not rest on evidence but on unchallenged habit. The sharing of wealth produced has to become much more equitable. It has to become, in its process and product, economically and ecologically sustainable - today it is neither. The root of the ills of the workplace is its lack of creativity for creativitity is, by deffinition, the exprssion of the human; this lack of creative impulse can be seen in how it is made, in how it is conducted, in the products that emanate from it. We have, today, an abundance of incremental invention and innovation; a proliferation of technique practiced by legions of over-trained and under educated hired guns. These are mostly, in my expereince, highly skilled and dedicated people who do not know what they do not know and who, because of their inate humaness, long to do far more and BE better than the system in which they presently exist allows. Unleash this genius and an abundance of true wealth will result; chain it and the system will, with the power that has been unleashed, self destruct. It seems like a simple choice. |
|I am not saying that there should be a greater integration between our culture and the place where we manufacture it; that integration already exists. What comes out of our present system is the product that it was designed to produce. If you question this consequence in any way; if you wonder what another decade of the same will produce; then, change the machine that has ceased to promote life and replace it with what does. We create our environment - and then, it creates us. |
November 28, 2002
SolutionBox voice of this document:
INSIGHT POLICY PROGRAM
posted November 28, 2002
revised December 6, 2002
20021128.611390.mt • 20021206.202209.mt •
(note: this document is about 25% finished)
copyright© Matt Taylor 2002
note: aspects of the processes described in this document are patented and patent pending by iterations